A TYPICAL homestead in Matabeleland South has at least four housing structures or, simply put, four grass huts.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
Watershed Primary School in Mangwe, Matabeleland South, aptly fits the description of a homestead.
And it is not difficult to understand why Watershed Primary School recorded a 10% pass rate last year.
Pupils in different grades jointly conduct lessons because of lack of classrooms and other infrastructure. In fact, they learn in grass-thatched huts where Grades one and two, three and four, and five to seven have joint lessons. Pupils write notes and test exercises on their laps.
The school, with an enrolment of 140 pupils, does not have desks, chairs and blackboards and other basic infrastructure, although it was established 13 years back at the height of the land reform programme in 2002.
The school, a satellite of Dingumuzi Primary School, only has five teachers.
During a visit by National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ) to donate stationery to the school, Mangwe district administrator Felicity Gangada likened it to “one man’s homestead”.
“The state of the school is very bad and it must be improved. How can we have a school like one man’s homestead? Parents must wake up and smell the coffee,” she said.
She said lack of basic education infrastructure continued to undermine the education system in Zimbabwe.
Gangada said parents were supposed to mobilise funds for the school as suggested by the government’s blueprint — the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socioeconomic Transformation (ZimAsset).
“This is the reason why you were relocated into resettlement areas so that you can bring light to those who remained behind.
But what is happening with the school is not good at all and I guess some of the parents have better houses than these ‘classrooms’,” she said.
Mangwe district education officer Headman Mpofu said it was mind-boggling that the school had not been developed since its establishment in 2002.
“Parents, let’s give our children quality education. The infrastructure for Watershed is not up to standard and you should work very hard to improve it. The government has not neglected you and as the ministry we are doing everything within our power to improve the quality of education in every school,” Mpofu said.
Mpofu said the government gave the school enough textbooks for all subjects and was expecting better results. The school is getting $6 000 every term for infrastructural development.
Currently, the school development committee (SDC) is busy moulding bricks for a one classroom block.
The work on the block started in 2004, but due to lack of resources the classroom is still at window level.
“We have bricks and sand. We only need cement and a builder,” SDC chairperson, Winter Ncube, said.
During the donation ceremony, schoolchildren sang songs and recited poems condemning the sad state of affairs at their school.
One of the songs they sang had these lyrics: “Bazali lithini nxa thina sifundela phandle? Kubuhlungu ukufundela phandle.
Kungani lingasakhel’ izindlu zokufundela lathi sijabule. (Parents, what are you saying about us doing lessons in the open? It is painful to learn in the open.
Why don’t you build us proper classrooms?)”
A number of schools in Matabeleland have poor infrastructure and many qualified teachers do not want to work there. Due to lack of resources and shortage of qualified teachers, the pass rate for most of the schools is always at 0%.
Most teachers are reluctant to teach at remote rural schools.
Last year, 15 primary schools in Matabeleland South province recorded 0%pass rate in the 2014 Grade Seven public examinations.
The previous year, 13 schools had recorded a poor pass rate.
The 15 schools that recorded a 0% pass rate are Mpofini, St Theresa, Emhlonhlweni, Dwala, Gcabayi, Zhomphembe, Seula, Towla, Bgemura, Phelela, Zvukwe, Newune, Malabe, Makombe and Mashumba.
The Primary and Secondary Education ministry’s provincial analysis report also indicates that more than 100 schools out of a total of about 180 primary schools performed dismally, with most settling far below the national pass rate of 38,13%.
Several of them scored between 0% and 5%.
The 2013 Grade Seven results revealed that about six schools in Gwanda, Matabeleland South, failed to record a single pass.
While Zimbabwe had made tremendous progress in education since 1980 — achieving the highest literacy rate in Africa — there are concerns standards are collapsing and institutions are now producing mediocre graduates.
According to a report, the Commonwealth and the State of Education in Zimbabwe 2011, written by former Education minister David Coltart, since 2000 the political crisis and precipitous economic decline induced shocks and pressures that left many sectors, including education, on the verge of collapse.
However, for some the hope is still there. NBSZ Matabeleland region public relations officer Sifundo Ngwenya says a holistic approach is needed to improve the quality of education in Zimbabwe.
“As NBSZ we are for quality education and our aim is to improve the quality of education at Watershed. However, we cannot be able to do everything since we are a branch of the government,” he said.